Climate-smart battery for sustainable energy storage

1 April 2020

battery

The new battery looks like a standard button cell battery but on the inside, it consists of organic materials and is based on protons rather than lithium ions.

Sustainable energy storage is in great demand. Researchers at Uppsala University have therefore developed an all-organic proton battery that can be charged in a matter of seconds. The battery can be charged and discharged over 500 times without any significant loss of capacity.

The researchers have been able to demonstrate that their battery can be easily charged using a solar cell, avoiding the advanced electronics that lithium ion batteries require. Another advantage of the battery is that it is unaffected by ambient temperatures.

“As I’m sure many people are aware, the performance of standard batteries declines at low temperatures. We have demonstrated that this organic proton battery retains properties such as capacity down to as low as -24°C,” says Christian Strietzel of Uppsala University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Organic climate-smart materials

Many of the batteries manufactured today have a major environmental impact, not least due to the mining of the metals used in them.

“In our research, we have therefore set out to develop a battery built from elements commonly found in nature that can be used to create organic battery materials,” explains Strietzel.

For this reason, the research team has chosen quinones as the active material in their battery. These organic carbon compounds are plentiful in nature, occurring for example in photosynthesis. The characteristic of quinones that researchers have utilised is their ability to absorb or emit hydrogen ions, which of course only contain protons, during charging and discharging.

An acidic aqueous solution has been used as the electrolyte, the vital component that transports ions inside the battery. As well as being environmentally friendly, this also provides a safe battery free from the hazard of explosion or fire.

Large stride towards the future

“A great deal of further development still remains to be done on the battery before it becomes a household item; however, the proton battery we have developed is a large stride towards being able to manufacture sustainable organic batteries in future,” says Strietzel.

Publication

The work has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Christian Strietzel et al. (2020) An aqueous conducting redox polymer based proton battery that can withstand rapid constant‐voltage charging and sub‐zero temperatures, Angewandte Chemie, 2020. DOI:10.1002/anie.202001191